Washington D.C.
9:30 Club
April 2, 2004

[John Frisch], [Don Mitchell]

Review by John Frisch

This was a very strong show from start to finish in a wonderfully small
venue--was able to last catch him here the weekend he received the Kennedy
Center honors and this was every bit as good.  Dylan was engaged and in
great voice and gave one of the most  consistent and sustained shows I've
seen in years.  Highlights--am excellent  and faithful reading of Hazel, a
searing It's Alright Ma (one of the best performances of any of his songs
I have ever seen period), a terrific Positively Fourth Street, an inspired
and nuanced Not Dark Yet,  a  rollicking and driving Summer Days, a very
faithful read of  Most Likely You Go Your Way and a really fun rework of
It Ain't Me Babe (a song I frankly have really tired of over the years but
 which I thoroughly enjoyed tonight as a result of this really explosive
new rendition).  Bob played a lot of harmonica and really nailed it on If
Dogs Run Free.  Minor criticism--especially since this band is so tight
and rocks so well--I would have liked a few quiet acoustic songs--this was
in your face rock and roll most of the night and Desolation Row or a quiet
Boots of Spanish Leather would have been a good change of pace, but this
is a minor quibble.  Noticed he was rubbing his wrists a lot at the end of
the show when he faced the crowd before leaving both before and after the
encore and this may explain why he no longer picks up a guitar. 
Regardless of that he can still bring it and delivered a real tour de
force in Washington D.C. tonight.

John Frisch


Review by Don Mitchell

As I have a calm moment before heading down to tonight's Warner Theater show, I wanted to share some 
impressions of my last two nights on the rail with my family at the 9:30 Club on Friday and at Bender 
Arena last night.  The scenes outside the venues and the two shows themselves were very different, and 
I'll try to convey some of that here.

The 9:30 Club line started forming early Friday morning in the rain, and was about 8 people long when 
I got there.  It rained all day in a difficult part of town, and together with being a work day, the 
line stayed fairly short until about 4:00 and was well managed with no cutters.  We were finally 
admitted just about 7:00 - after the venue allowed a few actually (and six or eight mythically) disabled 
people, and a few people with "VIP" connections to go in first.  The 9:30 Club holds about 900-1,000 
people, about 650 on the floor and another few hundred in a wrap-around balcony.  It's a dark club, all 
painted black with the lighting kept low, with some neon painted colors around the bars brightening it 
up a little.  It's a stripped-down rock n' roll club, perfect for a show like this.  And the show, in a 
jam-packed space with a small tight stage - so small Bob had to be careful not to trip on his piano legs 
as came out from behind it to confer with Tony or Freddie - with a highly excited audience of older fans 
who knew they had scored special tickets on short notice, felt like it reflected that dark ambience.  I 
was on the rail just left of center, and my wife and daughter were on the rail at the right, in front of 

The set list shows a heavy bluesy emphasis, from Drifter's to Tweedle Dee to Love Sick to Not Dark Yet.  
The guitar players were on fire, and because of the size of the venue the chords were blisteringly loud.  
The band was very tight, hitting virtually every song dead on.  Freddy, the subject of so many questions 
on the Dylan discussion boards, was excellent - confident and creative.  The change in his playing and 
his confidence level from the last time I saw him in May 2003 was astonishing, like a different guitar 
player.  From my point of view, Freddy - "Fuzzy," as Bob has taken to calling him - adds a lot to the 
band.  He has tremendous creative power with the blues and with jazz stylings, and he takes risks; his 
solos are frequently improvisational and frequently brilliant.  He just not a simple straight-ahead rock 
guitarist endlessly replaying Chuck Berry's riff.  Anybody who takes risks will sometimes fail, but his 
risk-taking also yields great successes.  I think Bob is happy with him.

This tour is about the blues and the 9:30 show really emphasized that aspect of the show, both with the 
set list and with an almost swamp-rock feel to the presentations.  Bob was in a growling, snarly blues-
loaded mien, biting off lines and spitting out lines to It's Alright Ma and Honest With Me.

The surprise of the night was the already much-discussed unveiling of Hazel.  You heard the opening, you 
processed the information properly, your mind said 'it's Hazel,' and then your mind said 'it can't be 
Hazel, Bob doesn't play Hazel - but it is!' And what a totally beautiful version it was; I can't wait 
for a really good boot.  Dogs Run Free was another shocker - starting with Tony's standup bass and 
sounding like it was going to be Bye and Bye, but it wasn't.  Other highlights were great versions of 
Just Like A Woman and Positively 4th Street, and Not Dark Yet - first time I'd seen NDY, which is one 
of favorite Bob songs, live.  (I've got to admit, I didn't like the current arrangement of 4th Street 
when I first heard it in 2002, but I liked it a lot on Friday.)  Most Likely You Go Your Way was 
another great version - Larry just nailed it, carrying that bouncing guitar line through the whole 

The Bender show was completely different, different crowd, different feel, different song choices.  It 
was a much younger crowd, more high school and college kids, parents with their children, passing Bob 
on to the next generation - I had my 12-year old son with me at the rail for his first Dylan show, and 
my 14-year old daughter there too, for her third Dylan show at the rail, with my oldest daughter back 
for another night.  The lines were massive - over a quarter mile long by 6:00 - and throughout the day 
various infiltrators were weeded out.  The weather continued its cold gray cast, but our blaster kept 
everyone warm with boots from several recent shows and the new authorized Halloween 1964 show.  When 
we finally got it in - they opened the doors at about 6:30, a half hour early - we found that Bender 
is a college basketball gym, and was bright and airy like one, with a massive stage and a longer rail, 
not the small dark cramped intimate 9:30 Club feel at all.  The floor was packed and the seats were 
filled with happy unstressed Saturday concert-goers, and we were on the rail, directly in front of Bob.

Musically, the Bender show was amazing.  Bob was in full voice, the best Bob voice I've heard live in 
several years and better than any Bob voice I've heard on the 8 or 10 2004 shows I've listened to.  
The sound quality was also great where we were, Bob's voice dropping on our head from the double-stack 
hanging over the left, the guitars screaming from the stage amps and monitors.  The vocals were crystal 
clear, down to the closing "t" on the words.  If the boots are as good as what I heard we are in for a 
major treat.

I'm a big Maggie's Farm fan - so is my daughter Adrienne, who got Maggie's for the opening song for 
the third straight time at her three shows - so we were delighted to hear an excellent version for the 
opener.  (I'm even happier not to have had to listen to Drifter's Escape or Wicked Messenger in that 
opening spot, since the two songs are both indistinguishable and, to my ears, not very good in their 
current Hendrix arrangement.  Drifter's was probably the lowlight of the 9:30 show.)  Then it was on 
to a very-well sung Times They Are A-Changin', which really got my budding guitar player son's 
attention.  He also really liked Tweedle Dee, one of only two songs in the first eleven that was 
repeated from the 9:30 show (Highway 61 was the other).  And proving that my 12-year old has the idea, 
he asked me this morning to get the boot for Tweedle Dee.

Ring Them Bells was a wonderful surprise, and Down Along the Cove really got the crowd going, a happy 
contrast to the prior night's tougher songs.  Thin Man replaced It's Alright Ma, and then a double dip 
of rarities - a new arrangement of Dignity and then a surprising Hollis Brown.  After a workmanlike 
Highway 61 - this song is getting too predictable - Bob spat out Hard Rain with none of the up-signing 
we've heard on nights when his voice was not as powerful as it was at Bender.  The last highlight for 
me - not counting Bob's return for a second encore, was the TOOM song Standing In The Doorway, which 
was so well done, a real tear jerker, with even more emotion than the wonderful version on the Masked 
and Anonymous dvd outtakes.  Bob can flat-out sing the broken-heart blues.

When Bob came back for the first encore he was all smiles, and you could sense that he was in a great 
mood.  I had felt it from the beginning, a happiness in him that seemed to arise from the recognition 
that he had total control of his most important instrument, his voice.  During Summer Days and 
Watchtower he left the stage at the beginning of each song, leaving the band to heat up the joint 
before coming back to rip into the vocals.  And when he came back for the second encore, he was 
chatting with the guitar tech behind him and had his hand on the neck of an electric guitar located 
near his Oscar.  My waiting-all-day-in-line-mate Ruth, my son and I were all calling to him "Pick it 
up, pick it up," but it was, of course, not to be.  But Rainy Day Women was a great rollicking crowd 
pleaser, and left everyone filing out of Bender in a happy mood, knowing they had seen a great Bob 

Two totally different environments.  Two totally different feeling shows.  And two shows that will long 
be talked about, perhaps for different reasons.  The first regular concert appearance of Hazel ever 
will be the story for the dark blues of the 9:30 Club, but Bob's great voice and popular song list may 
make the Bender boot more popular.

And now off to Warner.


page by Bill Pagel

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